Fishing Around Cairo
by Seif Kamel
Usually when people think about fishing in Egypt, they think of Hurghada, Sharm, or Nasser Lake where they can rent a boat or sometimes even fish off of a dock. However, fishing in Egypt is much simpler than that. Since many of the hotels in Egypt are on the Nile, one can just go out of the hotel, stand by the Nile and fish. People go fishing in many places near the Marriott Hotel, Nile Hilton, Gezeira Sheraton and Cairo Sheraton, or just about anywhere along the banks of the Nile River.
It was a rather cold afternoon when I was in search of fishermen and fishing areas in Cairo. Maybe this was why I couldnt find a single person fishing in the places famous for this popular mind and body sport. I asked some people I know, including an elderly man who works for my mother. He told me I should go to Kanater Khaireya, which is located north of Cairo, to find people fishing at that time of the year. Because I have never been to Kanater before, I thought I might try to find my way there.
I got in my car and started my journey on the west bank of the Nile in Cairo. I passed Imbaba, Wara', and then I passed the Ring Road. I thought I was lost, so I asked around about a famous bridge where people fish. One man was very helpful and told me to go straight until I reached a bridge called El Galatma.
After traveling about 20 kilometers, I found the Galatma Bridge. It is an old bridge with many gardens and trees all around it. I parked my car and went to walk on the bridge. One of the main means of transportation there was the donkey and people looked so cute riding them. The Nile looked very clear and calm. There are two little bridges beside the Galatma Bridge where people stand and fish.
Under the bridge was a true Egyptian scene that I had to watch. There was a huge boat being used to carry white rocks. The workers on the boat were carrying the rocks from the boat to the land. They were working and singing songs to encourage themselves to exert more effort. I spent some time listening to their songs and watching them, until my eyes found something more interesting.
I found the Kanater El Khaireya. It was built in the year 1843 by Mohamed Ali. It was opened in 1868 and has since become an attraction for school and youth trips. It was built on more than five hundred kilometers. It was originally built to stop the Nile water from flooding the agricultural land. There was a rest house for King Farouk there and also another one for the past Egyptian president, Anwar El Sadat.
The Kanater is now used as a little bridge for people and motorcycles, as cars are not permitted to pass on it. People go there to chat and watch the Nile. It has two awesome, huge towers at the entrance. After passing these two towers, there is a small hanging bridge that opens when ships need to pass through. The whole scene is magnificent, and the Nile is very calm and reflects the view of the Kanater. It is a wonderful place for a family or school picnic.
However, this was not what I was looking for. I was looking for fishing. Therefore, I was very happy when I found an elderly man by the Kanater who was preparing his fishing rod. I went down to the side of the Kanater to speak to him.
I found out that the man's name was Al Haj Ahmed Abdel Galil. He told me that he lives near the Kanater and that he has been fishing in this area for more than 35 years. He added that he finds fishing more beneficial than watching TV or sitting in cafes and chatting. He told me that sometimes he catches alot of fish and sells them for a good amount of money.
I had to ask him about his fishing techniques, because his fishing rod was the oldest kind I'd ever seen. He told me that he never uses bait. He just uses hooks on the rope that goes from the fishing rod to the water. There is an egg shaped sinker at the end of the rope. He told me that a box containing 100 hooks costs 2 pounds. He puts three hooks, each in a different direction, and he puts four sets of these hooks on the rope. He told me the best time to fish is in the summer.
The way Al Haj Ahmed fishes is an old practice, I believe. He told me that the Pharos used to fish the same way he does. He just throws the line into the water with the hooks heading in different directions. Then, he just moves from right to left and vise versa until a fish is caught in one of the hooks. It is a healthy way of fishing, because in one hour a person walks more than 5 kilometers.
I thought to myself that this method would never work, but he was able to catch a small fish in front of me. He told me that when a small boat moves in the Nile in front of him, the fish move to the sides of the river. They also move there looking for food, and at that time it is possible to catch them with only a hook.
Al Haj Ahmed also added that many people come from Cairo to fish in Kanater, and also to enjoy the greenery and the fresh air. Usually people come to Kanater in the summer because there are more fish and it is easier to catch them. While I was speaking to Al Haj Ahmed, I saw another man sitting on the other side fishing with a real fishing rod. I had to go investigate what he was doing.
The man's name was Adel Michael. He used to work for the minister of youth and sports before retirement. He told me that he comes every other day from Cairo to Kanater to fish. He spends more than 4 or 5 hours fishing and thinking. He said this is the thing he enjoys most in his old age. With his sons and daughters at home, it is better for him to leave the house, he said.
His technique in fishing, he said, was to use a fiberglass rod with bait. Mr. Adel seemed to have a lot of info about fish. He told me that he used to fish in Zamalek, in Cairo, the same way he fishes here. He started coming here because it is much more beautiful and peaceful than Zamalek.
He told me that the fish come near the bait for two reasons: being hungry or being mad. He said that in order to catch fish, you have to know what the fish would like to eat. There are many things that feed the fish in the Nile. He told me some youth use pieces of bread or cheese to attract fish. However, it is much better to use bait that comes from the environment of the fish itself like small fish, worms and insects.
Worms are the best bait for fishing in the Nile. He said that 1 kilogram of earthworms costs more than forty pounds. This is because the people who sell it know that when a person loves fishing, he would spend a lot for his beloved hobby. Worms can also be found in many agricultural lands around Kanater, if you dont want to buy them. Worms attract fish so quickly. When a fish sees a warm in the water, it goes straight to it because there are many creatures that look like earthworms in the Nile.
Mr. Adel throws the rope of the rod as far as he can into the water. He waits until the fish is caught by the bait and hook. He said it might take more than an hour for him to catch a small fish. This is why fishing is called the patient game. When he feels the fish is eating the bait, he must pull the rope quickly in one move to avoid the escape of the fish.
Upon asking about the kinds of fish available in the Nile, Mr. Adel told me that they are mainly river trout. This is because this kind of fish is the attacking kind and likes to eat a lot. I dont know if this is true or if he was joking. He told me that trout is a good fish to be eaten and that he likes them very much.
While speaking to Mr. Adel, Al Haj Ahmed came and joined us and he told Mr. Adel that he saw him a lot in the area but had never spoken to him. I was happy that I gave them the chance to talk. They started discussing fish issues and they told me that in April, there are may more fish in this area. Al Haj Ahmed said that he once caught four kilos of trout in three hours. This is because it is the time when the fish lay their eggs. They also talked a lot about the benefits of fishing and how a person, while fishing, gets to have a conversation with the fish. He either deceives the fish or the fish deceives him.
I took some pictures of Mr. Adel with a plastic bag that was full of medium sized fish. He told me that fishing in the Nile at night is even better, but with the cold weather it is very hard to find someone fishing at night in the winter. He told me that he likes Kanater very much and that he used to come here with his dad in the past.
Before I left I thanked Mr. Adel and Haj Ahmed for their time. I was so happy when I returned to Haj Ahmed because I found out he caught a nice fish. He told me that my presence was a good sign for him. He told me that he used to work as a professional fisherman, using his method, in the past and that he would be interested in escorting any guests in Kanater. His phone numbers are 02/8941718 and 02/8941522.
I took my car back down the long road by the Nile, feeling happy I went to Kanater. This place is full of history and you can feel that the people there all share very intimate feelings. All the people there were very helpful and they all talked to me in a very friendly and respectful manner.
I never thought of fishing before, because I honestly get bored easily. After I saw this beautiful place and the quantity of fish one can get, I might one day buy a fishing rod and sit there fishing all day long. I live by the Nile and I usually see many people fishing in the summer. However, fishing in Kanater is different. I could spend a lot of time watching the scene of the Nile and bridges there. I would like to have my walkman with me to listen to music while fishing. They say if you drink from the Nile, you must return to it someday. Now, I am saying if you ever visit Kanater and fish there, you will surely go back there one day.